I have to say, the Challenger seems to be getting something of a bum rap from most of my esteemed colleagues, especially vis-à-vis how it compares with its more popular pony car competitors. Just to review, the Challenger concept debuted around the same time as the Camaro but made it to production two years sooner. It also has a much more usable trunk and five real seatbelts. And despite its quick concept-to-production turnaround, the Dodge doesn't come off like a half-finished product, with better interior fit and finish than the Camaro and a more comfortable driving position than the Mustang. Not a bad accomplishment for a company that had just about no money at the time.
It's also quite fun to drive, providing one drives it the right way. That requires pointing it at the nearest stoplight, loading up the revs -- don't be shy about it -- and dumping the clutch. Grab second with the surprisingly precise "pistol grip" shifter, and immediately slam on the Brembo brakes before the next light. Repeat. I'd also have to disagree with most of my colleagues regarding the suspension tuning, as I found the car more than agile enough for what is -- that being a full-size coupe -- and wouldn't want a more punishing ride.
And that's really the rub. If you approach the Challenger expecting a sports car, you'll doubtless be disappointed, because the Challenger just isn't one. But for anyone seeking a great-looking, great-sounding coupe that provides most of the benefits of a full-size vehicle and also hauls ass in a straight line, the Challenger is a winner.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor